by Bryan “Kraska” Castro
Sometimes, we are inspired by things that are outside of us. Sometimes, we just need to inspire ourselves. – Kraska
This past week, Blizzard announced its newest upcoming expansion, the Grand Tournament! I encourage you to listen to the Legend of the Innkeeper podcast episode #55 where Vastidious, Ariannwyn, and Espo discuss the details of the new expansion as well as discussing some of the newest cards. In this article, I’d like to tie into the expansion from the view of how the new cards will potentially affect the strategy of the game and how you can plan for this. Although we’ll be discussing some of the new cards to illustrate some of my points, mainly we will be focusing on the new game mechanic: Inspire.
Understanding Hero Powers
Before we go into the new Inspire mechanic – which triggers an effect whenever you use your hero power – let’s discuss the nature of Hero Powers in general.
Hero Power Trade Off
The first thing to understand is that in general there is an important trade-off when using your hero power. The effect of the hero power is usually worse than a similar effect produced by a card. For example, the Paladin Hero Power, Reinforce, creates a 1/1 Silver Hand Recruit. Compare this to Wisp which is a 1/1 worth 0 mana. However, this loss in value is mitigated by the fact that you don’t have to use a card (and thus don’t lose card advantage) when using your hero power. In general, you’d rather be doing something else with the two mana than using your hero power.
Hero Power Defines Archetypes
The second aspect to understand about hero powers is that they often help define the strongest archetypes available to that specific class. Let’s go through a couple of the classes, their hero power and how it helps to define how that class is often played.
The Hunter hero power – Steady Shot – is perhaps the most illustrative of this point. Because it always deals damage to the enemy hero, most Hunter decks tend to be aggressive, despite various attempts to create a control hunter archetype. Steady Shot aligns perfectly with an aggressive win condition and is almost always useful when you have 2 extra mana during a game.
Compare this to the Warrior hero power – Armor Up. This hero power aligns with a more defensive strategy, as it helps to extend the life of the hero. Currently, the two most popular warrior decks are the Grim Patron Warrior and Control Warrior. Grim Patron Warrior relies on its hero power to help hold out against its opponent while it draws specific cards for its devastating combos. Control Warrior on the other hand, also uses its hero power as well as other cards such as Shieldmaiden to stay safe while it deploys large threats in the late game that are hard for opponent’s to deal with and eventually the Warrior often outlasts its opponents.
As you can see from these two examples, hero powers are often help to define the type of play style and win condition you should employ when playing those classes. Of course, even within the parameters of your hero power, there is much room for creativity and variety because of the wide assortment of cards you can combine for different strategies and tactics.
Blizzard’s new game mechanic – Inspire – adds an exciting new dimension to strategic gameplay. This as well as some of the other new cards introduced, emphasize the hero power in such a way that it will become a more important aspect to players’ decision making in their games. I believe there are a few consequences that Inspire … well, inspires!
Inspire adds a new factor you need to think about in the game – when and how you and your opponent will use your hero power. Because Inspire has many different effects depending on the card, it increases and enriches your decision making and thus will increase the skill needed to climb the ranks in Hearthstone. There will be more to keep track of, and players who are not able to do this effectively will be outplayed by those who do.
Just as an example of the factors you may need to consider when playing cards with inspire, let’s consider Thunder Bluff Valiant. At the earliest, you can play this card on Turn 5 (Turn 4 with the coin). On the previous turns, you will have to consider whether or not it is worth it to create Totems in order to take advantage of this. Also, if you do play it on turn 5, you have to consider whether or not it can be easily removed or traded. Because it is only a 3/6 for 5 mana, it does not produce value until its ability is triggered (see my article on evaluating cards to understand this concept better). Similarly, you may want to wait until turn 7 to play this, and hopefully have planned to have several Totems out already that can attack after you use your hero power (I’m assuming the Totem you create on the same turn will be unable to attack). Remember that all of this planning is not done in a vacuum and your opponent will also be trying to execute his or her plans as well.
This increase in the skillcap also applies to deckbuilding skills. As you can see from the above example, the availability of Totems is an essential part of extracting value from Thunder Bluff Valiant. However, there are new totem cards that are being introduced into the game as well, in addition to the older ones. However, many of these old Totem cards did not fit into Shaman decks before because they did not provide enough value. Both playtesting and skill will help better players to determine how many and which Totem cards to include in addition to using their hero power to produce them.
Because Inspire requires you to use your hero power to trigger its ability, I think we will find many of these cards found in decks that employ a slower strategy. For example, one of the new legendaries revealed, Nexus-Champion Saraad, has an incredible ability triggered by Inspire, to add a random spell to your hand. Anytime you can create cards outside of your deck it is a benefit that leads to both card advantage as well as indirectly preventing fatigue (because you won’t have to draw as many cards throughout the game). However, not only do you need the mana to deploy Saraad and trigger Inspire, but you also need to have the mana to use the spells! Therefore, I believe cards like this will be seen in more control or combo archetypes rather than in aggro decks.
The only card revealed as of this writing that might fit into an aggro deck is the Lowly Squire. It has a fair value when measured against the Vanilla scale, but even if you are able to play it on your first turn, most aggro decks really would prefer not to use their hero power on Turn 2. At the time of this writing, I don’t think our Lowly Squire will be seeing much play, unless Blizzard reveals more cards that synergize with it.
Games like Hearthstone benefit from expansions of the card collection. Each new set of cards brings fresh ideas and strategies for our enjoyment and enrichment. The new game mechanic Inspire is an interesting way for us to use a common tool – our hero power – in new ways. Inspire will give creative strategists ample space for new gameplay and deck strategies. I think casual players will enjoy the exciting and surprising games that result from both Inspire and the other cards in the Grand Tournament expansion. Until next week, good luck and have fun!
Here are some suggestions to help you apply what we’ve discussed:
- Try just one or two cards in your current decks. Because of the varied nature of the Inspire mechanic, I think it might be more difficult to play a deck based on the Inspire mechanic alone (I might have to adjust my opinion as more cards are revealed). However, you may be able to replace one or two non-core cards from one of your existing decks with one of the new cards.
- Watch the pros play the new cards. They have the skill as well as the time to play test all of the new cards. You can learn what cards work with what decks as well as how to best play them.
- Remember to have fun and do not worry too much about your rank this month as you test out the new cards. There will be a lot of new ideas and as you experiment you will lose a lot of games! Take these losses as valuable lessons and enjoy the new cards!
Solution to the Last Puzzle
I hope you enjoyed my last puzzle. Here is the solution.
In this particular puzzle, you notice that the damage you have on the board is just a little short. However, you have ways of increasing the damage.
- Use your hero power to ping the Tauren Warrior to enrage it, increasing its attack to 5.
- Cast Counterspell, which increases the attack of your Mana Wyrm to 2.
- You now have 2 + 5 + 4 = 11 damage! Enough for lethal.
- Attack the hero with every minion that can attack!
Hearthstone Puzzle #5
Find the lethal solution to the puzzle below. Read next week’s article for the solution!